The Sovereignty of Grace by Cornelius Van Til

G.C. Berkouwer
G.C. Berkouwer

In 1969 P&R published a relatively short  booklet by Cornelius Van Til entitled “The Sovereignty of Grace: An Appraisal of G. C. Berkhower’s View of Dordt”. For thought, the following quote is part of the conclusion:

“Berkouwer was therefore leading us forward when, in his earlier works, he constantly pointed out that the Reformed doctrine of Scripture and the Reformed doctrine of salvation by grace alone as involved in one another stand alone in their final opposition to those who start from human subject as though it were autonomous.

In his later works, however, Berkouwer is making an alliance with those whose theology is, in the last analysis, based on the assumption of human autonomy. Admitting that Barth’s “revised supralapsarianism blocks the way to ascribing decisive significance to history,” Berkouwer none-the-less insists that his “main concern is in speak of the all-conquering grace of God in Christ Jesus.” Barth denies, as basically destructive of the gospel of free grace, that which Berkouwer, in his earlier work, stressed as being foundational to all true theology, namely, the direct revelation of God in history through Scripture and the step-by-step redemptive work of Christ in history. Yet, Berkouwer now considers Barth as a fellow-defender of grace.

Not only this. Berkouwer now advocates principles similar to those of Barth and of neo-orthodoxy as though through them alone we can defend the teaching of free grace.

Yet Berkouwer appears not to be certain of himself in his advocacy of the neo-orthodox pattern of thought, as a new and better way. Committed as he is to the historic Christian position of salvation through the work of Christ in history, he halts and objects when Barth goes too far in rejecting this.

When Reformed Christians today read Berkouwer, they should realize that there are two mutually destructive principles operative in his theology. There is the position of the historic Reformed Faith and there is the position that would go beyond the first position by means of a modern existentialist pattern of thought. The first position is now gradually being snowed under. It is now said to be formalist and determinist.”

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